Reuters—Liberal NYC Democrat wins Obama’s backing in mayoral race:
“President Barack Obama…threw his support behind New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, lauding his fellow Democrat’s commitment to “an economy that works for all” and a “bold, courageous” plan to lift more New Yorkers out of poverty.|
…Obama cited de Blasio’s plan to increase taxes on the city’s highest earners to expand access to pre-kindergarten programs and efforts to prevent the closure of community hospitals as “bold, courageous ideas that address the great challenges of our time.”
I am assuming that by the time I have had coffee this morning Democratic Party candidate Bill DeBlasio will have won enough votes to be declared Mayor of New York City. The polls have predicted a lopsided landslide for DeBlasio against his Republican Party Rival Joe Lhota.
My candidate of choice Dan Fein of the Socialist Workers Party has been ignored by the mainstream press and most of the middle class “left” as well. That is because he calls for a fighting movement of the working class to challenge the “dictatorship of capital” and offers no submission whatsoever to the twin parties of U.S. Imperialism. Fein does not focus his attentions on the intricacies of the management of the bourgeois state–“government”–but rather on the social conditions facing working people and the importance of workers seeking a politically independent solution to the crisis that is affecting their daily lives.
But Mr DeBlasio has also been accused by his opponents, and even supporters in some cases, of having a “class struggle’ or ‘class war’ attitude. This stems mostly from his signature campaign promise to provide a sort of kinder Robin Hood solution to the problem of underfunded and under-programmed pre kindergarten in the City.
This proposal seems to get the attention of many political organizations associated with “the Left” or socialism. The reaction of such groups is typically some form of praise for the idea coupled with disbelief , an “it will never happen” attitude.
One article that typifies this reaction is a recent post by Don Lash on the Socialist Worker Website. Socialist Worker is the newspaper and website of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) The ISO states that it is “committed to building a left alternative to a world of war, racism and poverty.” It considers itself to be independent of the Democratic Party, though in practical politics it tends to operate as an influence organization within the broader left milieu which includes many liberals and activists on the “left wing” of the Democratic Party.
In the article Lash states “Taxing New York City’s rich is certainly worth fighting for. But if de Blasio was serious about challenging the elites, he could do a lot more.” He then goes on to describe other ways in which the city could locate funds for childcare and education such as ending massive subsidies to professional sports stadiums and cutting back tax givewaways and subsidies to wealthy developers. The ISO tends to follow the analytical categories of contemporary academic discourse and so uses the term “elites” as a substitute for a direct conversation about class and “rich” as a substitute for a clear designation of the social class that holds power in both New York City and in the rest of the United States, the capitalist class.
But is taxing the rich worth fighting for from the point of view of building an independent political movement to fight for the social interests of the working class?
Microblogger Mark (see below)
November 04, 2013 11:00 AM Let’s Hear It for Taxes By Richard RJ Eskow.
The article is in some ways similar to the ISO post discussing various ways in which the state may allocate essential resources and the importance of taxation as a mechanism to pay for those resources, as well as talking about the social and financial costs of failing to provide certain basic social programs.
There is a convergence of ideas amongst “progressive” liberals, “leftists” and various socialist currents all of whom view the attack of “neo-liberals” or neo-liberal policy as the principal enemy of working people and “the middle class” . This view which is found in publications as diverse as The Nation, Socialist Worker, North Star, Socialist Alternative, Political Affairs and other platforms, all of whom consider themselves explicitly to be part of “The Left,” is that one wing of bourgeois politics, the conservatives, who have promoted privatization of industry and natural resources and pro-market policies is particularly to blame for the degraded social conditions and market dysfunction that is prevalent in the current epoch. Their critique of the Democratic Party in the US and similar organizations such as the Labor Party in Britain and the Socialist Party in France is that they do not stand up ‘enough’ against the “neo-liberal” threat. This perspective implies a sentimental harkening back to the glory days of welfare-state capitalism and state-monopoly-socialism of the Great Depression and the years immediately following the Second World War. The New Deal in the US, Social Democracy in Scandinavia and Western Europe, Stalinism in the USSR, Maoism in China and social nationalism in countries such as Egypt under Nasser and Turkey under Ataturk.
But is “taxing the rich” the solution? and is the root of today’s social problems to be found within the context of the policy orientation of one or another wing of the political caste that supports and administers the capitalist system, the ‘government’ of the capitalist class, the state.
Nostalgia for the mid 20th century is ill founded. Much of the perceived prosperity in the US and Europe was based upon rebuilding following the massive destruction of the WWII and in the US upon deeply unequal terms of trade and imbalance in the value of labor power relative to impoverished countries in the Third World. Within the US African-Americans were subjected to super-exploitation under Jim Crow conditions in the South and substantial segregation in other parts of the US as well. In the Soviet Union a repressive bureaucratic state apparatus stifled the intellectual, cultural, and political life of the country’s citizens and a profound imbalance of national resources was devoted to concentrated heavy industry and support for a bloated military and state apparatus. In Europe the social-democratic social contract was based upon the temporarily high quality and productivity of European industrial production relative to the rest of the world and on value extraction from the rest of the less developed world from unequal terms of trade and the export of financial capital from which rent and interest was extracted in return. This setup, which resulted temporarily in substantial social concessions for the European working class, was based upon a set of unsustainable privileges in the hands of European capital rather than on the kind of internationalist mutualism which the working class movement must fight for today. The economic and social crisis which dominates life today is largely rooted in the economic and geopolitical relationships of power that were established following WWII. Rather than looking backward for solutions we should be looking back to that time for causes.
The liberal demand to “tax the rich” is rooted in support for the bourgeois state and is part of a political program of dependence on the state rather than upon the reliance on each other that we will need to build a just society. Liberals and a majority of the “left” see the state, the legal system and elected officials as the principal agency for social progress and change.
Contemporary liberal, and social democratic program is built around expansion of the “government” as a solution to capitalism and the wishful thinking that better regulation and more effective state intervention can somehow rescue the capitalist system from its insolvable contradictions. In contrast to “neo-liberalism” they seek “progressive” reform.
In all of this their is no meaningful challenge to the underlying problem. As with slavery, feudalism and monarchy in past centuries, the system in which private individuals have rights to “own” the natural wealth of the planet and the social product of the labor of millions of people is not capable of efficiently or justly providing for the social needs of the majority of the world’s population. The economic domination of one class over another is in itself the problem and this will not be solved by an ever expanding state, not even one supporting substantial welfare entitlement programs.
An independent political program of the working class should demand,
- full employment at a living wage
- universal health care
- universal child and prenatal care
- guaranteed housing
- adequate high quality food for all
- universal education
- and the dissolution of the bloated military-bureaucratic state rather than it’s expansion.
Since it is the working class that produces society’s riches, it is ourselves who must demand that we have the fair benefit of our labor. To press for such demands will require a politically independent movement, mobilization and a leadership derived from and responsible to our own class.
That will not be coming from Mr Deblasio and probably not from most of the political groupings which today consider themselves to be “The Left.”
In fairness to the ISO as victims of this polemic, below is a substantial extract from the Socialist Worker article quoted above.
October 23, 2013
“…..On the issue of social inequality, one of de Blasio’s more specific proposals is to enact a special tax on incomes over $500,000, with revenues earmarked for pre-kindergarten, made available for all children aged 3 to 5.
There’s certainly a need to make pre-K services readily available. But we should look closely at the details of de Blasio’s plan. A dedicated tax would require action by the state legislature and approval by the governor, neither of which is likely. De Blasio hasn’t called for any mobilization to pressure the state, nor is there much in his past to suggest he would–so it’s not clear that he’s really serious about the policy.
Even if the tax were to be enacted, it would hardly be a burden on the city’s super-rich. De Blasio is proposing to raise city income taxes by about half a percentage point–from 3.876 percent to 4.41 percent–on annual income (not wealth) over $500,000. This cost the immensely wealthy about $500 for every extra 100K in annual income–so the total city increase in a tax bill for someone who makes more than $1 million in a year would be $2,500.
Taxing New York City’s rich is certainly worth fighting for. But if de Blasio was serious about challenging the elites, he could do a lot more.
The city gives away more than $250 million a year in tax abatements for residential construction, much of it for luxury housing. Other development deals drain billions more from the city treasury–with close to $2 billion going to major league sports franchises alone. The city’s development policies effectively subsidize gentrification, with taxes paid by all New Yorkers, many of whom are thereby priced out of their own neighborhoods.
De Blasio could propose the elimination of giveaways to developers as a way of providing child care and preserving essential services. He could lead the fight to change city development policies and priorities. Instead, he’s issued a call for one narrow tax on the rich, without a strategy to make it happen….”